Schools to cut $1 million from budget

Despite initial estimates of a half-million-dollar cut to the school’s budget, the tentative 2006-07 budget presented to the South Kitsap School Board on Wednesday night called for $1.7 million in cuts and adjustments.

Terri Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, said the reductions came largely from lower-than-estimated levy support from the state.

The state typically offers equalization funds to school levies, but the initial estimate of $2.3 million dropped to $1.2 million this year.

As property values increase faster in South Kitsap than the rest of Washington, state funds have dropped for the district.

Additionally, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) only pays for state-employed teachers, and the district must find money to increase the salaries of levy-funded teachers.

This year’s adjustments follow a four-year history of major cuts in the school district, totaling $4.25 million since 2003.

Patton tweaked the budget as much as possible, minimizing actual program cuts and reductions to $1.1 million.

Adjustments included budgeting for 40 more full-time students through the Explorer Academy’s new virtual school program and shifting five state-funded teachers to Initiative 728 funds, which are intended for reducing class sizes.

The cuts included half-time staff reductions, technology cuts and instructional-service cuts, among others.

Patton added that the budget holds some good news. In addition to a predicted increase in enrollment, the state increased funding to special education, transportation and Initiative 728, allowing the district to shift some of the revenue budget from those items in addition to increasing those services.

Unfortunately, Patton added, the Initiative 728 funds followed the pattern of maintaining present services.

“We’ve never been able to use it for what it’s intended for,” Patton said.

The funds are meant to improve education through teacher training, reduced class size and pre-kindergarten programs.

While the district does provide some I-728 programs, such as the Ready for Kindergarten program starting this fall, the funds have only helped maintain current class sizes and never reduced them.

In coming years, however, Patton said that cuts may continue.

“Because we think all the easy cuts, the easier cuts, have been made and we're going to have to look at reducing some staffing positions,” Patton said.Schools to cut $1 million from budget

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